year 2015 archives
December 31, 2015
While everyone is celebrating New Year’s Eve I’m taking a moment to reflect on the last twelve months. In one short year so much has happened. Weddings. Graduations. Illnesses. Deaths. Loss. Relocation. I might be tempted to write a sappy blog about the highs and lows of a hellish year, but all I feel is gratitude.
Tonight as I tip my champagne glass at the television, I say to my husband, “Just once I’d like to do that.”
He stares blankly at the TV. “What?”
“Watch the ball drop at Times Square.”
He turns toward me. “Really.”
No, I guess not. That’s a lot of people. Over a million, the commentator claims. People yelling and pushing and probably exhausted from standing in line for thirteen hours to save a spot. But there really was a time when I would have stayed up all night to join that crowd and welcome in the New Year, to dance and sing with Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York.”
But not anymore. If I were to make that trip today I would be jet-lagged and ill. The change in altitude would rev up my Meniere’s disease sending my head spinning. Nonetheless, it would have been an exciting way to welcome in 2016.
This time last year I was sitting with family in a vacation rental near Moolack Beach. We call it our Griswold Family Christmas. Most of us were sick. To make matters worse a valve in the holding tank was broken. Baby Ellie was sick. So were her parents. There was an ocean full of water outside but inside there was not a drop to drink. Twice we drove into Newport for water. We bought all the bottled water Thriftway carried, then hit up Safeway and Fred Meyer’s. In more ways than one it was the Christmas from hell. We tried to laugh, but we were miserable and ready to go home. By 10 p.m. we were all in bed, our plans to celebrate the New Year abandoned.
Fast forward a year and once again I have an opportunity to welcome in the New Year on the Oregon Coast. But this time I’m eating fresh crab and sipping champagne. There is no vacation rental; there is no broken valve. There is plenty of fresh water. This year our family Christmas was awesome instead of a disaster. Celebrating with our son and family in Happy Valley we baked cookies, beaded snowflakes, and drove into Portland to see the lights at Peacock Lane as well as the red and green lights on the bridge. We celebrated the Winter Solstice at Milwaukie’s Riverfront Park, sang carols, drank hot chocolate around a huge bonfire, and watched the fire reflect in the water. Everything was magical; it truly felt like Christmas.
That Griswold Christmas seems a long time ago. So much has changed. Now when I open my front door I hear the ocean instead of traffic. While friends in Idaho bundle up against single digit temperatures and inches of snow, the ground in my front yard has yet to freeze.
“Happy New Year.” I clink my husband’s glass as he heads off to bed. It’s 9 p.m. We’re not going to make it to midnight.
Welcome to Newport I hum as Kathy Griffin and Cooper Anderson razz each other at Times Square. I laugh at one of their jokes. The camera zooms in on the ball. The crowd behind them cheers.
I tip my glass toward the TV and finish my champagne. I am warm. I am happy. I am safe.
I turn off the television and put Emily, Riley, and Boo to bed. “Happy New Year,” I pat them on their heads as I retire. They waggle their tails. I turn out the lights.
I am filled with gratitude.
I am filled with awe.
I am humbled.
When I moved from Idaho to Oregon my biggest fear was how well I would adapt to the wet climate. I’m a sunshine girl. I’ve spent most of my life living on a high desert plain. I know about wind. I know about dry air. But I knew nothing about wet and gray. That nagging voice in my head kept harping, You’re not going to like it. You’re not going to like it.
But this week as I watch the temperatures in Jerome, Idaho, drop to below zero, I’m not so sure. Here in South Beach it’s a misty 52°. Last night temperatures dipped to 45, not 18. This week I didn’t have to wake to -1°. And yesterday I was able to get outdoors and take a walk between raindrops without snow boots and gloves. The air was fresh; the roads were wet, but not icy. And this is December.
Idaho Decembers can be treacherous, especially the first snowfall and freeze. Cars run off the freeway, pileups happen, summoning a parade of tow trucks until people slow down. December in Oregon is also dangerous. There may not be snow on the road, but there is plenty of freezing rain. You can drive along at normal speed and then bam! you round a corner and hit ice. I’ve had my share of driving winter roads. I know how to maneuver. But between you and me, I prefer snow-covered to ice. Ice is impossible, even with chains.
So though some thing’s change, some things stay the same. It’s winter, and time to take it easy. Maybe it’s nature’s way of telling us to slow down and enjoy the season.
#14. Your life in 7 years.
What’s that you ask? My life in seven years? Hmm. What will my life look like or what will have transpired between 2015 and 2022?
The first thing that comes to mind. Will I still be walking Earth when I turn seventy-two? What’s that you say? I have a fifty-fifty chance? Hmm.
My mother passed at age 63 of causes unknown but suspected relating to high blood pressure and hypertension. She died sometime in the night and from the drugs found on the kitchen counter, the coroner suspects she may have had some pain that sent her in search of her meds. A heart attack, maybe. No autopsy, so we’ll never know. The last year of her life wasn’t so great, being married to an alcoholic who broke her arm the day before Thanksgiving. Still, she loved him in that way women do when they settle. I suppose she was as happy in her relationship as she allowed herself to be. I suppose she was content to spend hours on the sofa crocheting while she watched TV.
My father died at age 78 from complications related to kidney failure. The last week of his life was filled with excruciating pain and I remember him popping pain killers like M & Ms. They didn’t help and there’s no doubt that his passing gave him nothing but relief.
Which brings me back to the question and me sitting here talking with you. Where will I be, what will I be doing the next seven years?
Turning sixty-five was no big deal for me emotionally. In my head I’m still forty. But in the United States sixty-five means Medicare and at my age that’s a milestone because, unlike some of my friends who have aged well, I have struggled with an autoimmune disease and Ménière’s for more than twenty years. I know the meaning of a good day; I don’t have them often. With any chronic illness there are days when you would just rather stay in bed buried deep under the blankets because sleep provides the only comfort, until it doesn’t. What’s that you ask? What’s all this mopey talk about death, pain, and dying? Let me explain.
Time has always been a huge issue with me. Never enough time to read, to work on projects, to take that special vacation, to enjoy my surroundings. Three years ago one of my writing buddies succumbed to cancer. She was writing her memoir and excited about sharing it with the world. By exploring her past she was changing. Acknowledging the wrongs she endured opened her up. She was happier, more friendly, more excited about facing tomorrow. When she passed, still hoping to finish that memoir that explained what it felt like to be the younger sister to a mentally ‘retarded’ brother—her word, not mine—it broke my heart, and I will always remember her as someone who left this earth too soon with work undone. But I suppose that applies to most of us.
What’s that you say? I’m rambling and avoiding the question? Hmm. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. A college professor once posed the question, “Would you like to know when you are going to die?” I was taking a literature in the Bible class. He was staunch Catholic. A few students said, yes, they wanted to know so they could prepare. Others like me had no desire to know.
Here’s the thing. I just made a major life-changing move. Nothing about it was easy even though in my heart I had already left my current home with visions of how wonderful my new home and surroundings would be. Major life-altering realities tornadoed around me, not the least of which were leaving behind specialists who had cared for my husband and me most of our adult lives.
But life is fluid. It ebbs and flows, and when it doesn’t you begin to die. Like my mother. Like my father. Like my writing buddy who was just learning to love herself. Life is not stagnate. You keep moving or you start to decay.
So, you say. Get to the point.
My life in seven years. Yes, I can give you a bucket list.
- See New York, Times Square, and the Statue of Liberty.
- Publish three more novels.
- Take a European vacation with my husband, my son and his wife.
I know how to make lists. I used to do it all the time. In five years I want to be retired. In ten years I want to visit Spain. But I don’t really expect my life to look like that. With any luck it will look like my life today. Ticking away too fast. Reminding me to declutter. Reminding me to let go of things that don’t really matter. Pushing me to follow a new path and challenging me to enjoy the journey.
But here’s the truth. At this moment, with my dogs cuddled at my side and a pen in my hand, I can think of nothing else I need or want. I can think of nowhere else I’d rather be, not even seven years from now.
Yesterday I received an email from my brother. So, it said, do you still like it there?
Let me think.
I’m headed into the third month in my new house. The boxes are unpacked. Everything has been put away or donated to Goodwill. Most of the pictures are on the wall, with the remaining three in a dining room chair waiting for me to find the perfect place. Finally there is time to take a walk through the wooded neighborhood or sit in front of the window and sip coffee. Finally there is time to take in some community events, which are many.
In spite of the loud clothes my husband sports, we are quiet people. We don’t like a lot of hustle and bustle or big crowds. Newport is anything but quiet during the summer months, but come September vacationers return to their homes and things settle down here. But not too much. In fact, not at all. We’ve discovered there is always something to do on the Oregon Coast. From Lincoln City to Florence, there is always something going on: farmer’s markets, mushroom walks, kite festivals, writing workshops, woodworking classes. This is not a community of old people. This town is very active.
Newport isn’t as big as Jerome, Idaho, which boasts approximately eleven thousand people. Newport has a population of about ten thousand after tourist season. Newport has a great medical facility and the library is awesome for such a small town. Just this week the Newport Public Library Foundation sponsored author Marja Mills, who spent her day talking to Newport students and then, that night, read from her book and shared with the community what it was like to live next door to Alice and Harper Lee in Monroeville, Alabama. The evening was interesting, and it was free.
Today the sun is shining. Outdoors it’s a balmy 50 degrees. There is no wind. There is no snow. There is no freeway traffic.
So, to answer my brother. Yes, I still like it here. No, wait, that’s wrong. I not only like it here, I think I’m in love.
The boxes have arrived and I’ve started the daunting task of putting things away. This is the third major move for me, and by far, feels like the hardest. At the Idaho house, I knew where everything was. If I needed a jar of peaches, all I had to do was walk outside to the pantry in the three-bay shop. If I needed a roll of string or a nail, I knew they were in the bottom drawer in the laundry room. Easy peasy. Here, in Oregon, not so much.
Here there is no pantry in the shop. Here the shop consists of a one-car garage crammed with my husband’s yet to be situated table saws, hammers, and routers. Here there is no bottom drawer in the laundry room. In fact, there are no drawers in the laundry room, which is half the size of the laundry room left behind in Idaho.
True, the house in Oregon is larger, a triple wide modular home instead of a double. With vaulted ceilings and an extra living room I can convert into an office, freeing up one of the bedrooms so the grandkids don’t have to sleep on the floor. The Oregon house sits on half an acre instead of ten, and it’s three minutes from the ocean instead of a noisy freeway. In Idaho, I could hear the din of traffic twenty-four hours a day. Here it is the ocean, which is a sound I recorded to fall asleep, and a sound I listen to to write. One “white noise” replaces another, but this white noise is nicer, and here I don’t mind being outside.
It isn’t the outside that is tricky though. It’s the inside, and the cupboards, and where to put everything. The bedrooms and bathrooms aren’t too hard, towels and sheets go in closets, as do the clothes. We were ruthless in downsizing, and here everything fits. No extra blankets to store under the bed. No extra shoes taking up space. Our packing motto, “use it or lose it,” paid off. There isn’t a lot of extra stuff looking for a home.
But it’s the kitchen that’s giving me fits. Yes, I have more cupboards in this kitchen. But they are arranged differently than those in Idaho. There’s a long floor to ceiling cupboard I can use as a pantry. But it’s so deep I have to be careful what I put in the back. And there’s a small cupboard by the stove instead of the double one I am used to that held all my spices.
Moving is like being on an adventure. Open this door, what will you find? And that’s what I’ve been doing for weeks as I adapt to my new home. What doesn’t work so well in one cupboard gets moved to another. What doesn’t get used every day gets moved off the kitchen counter. As I move things around, I feel like I’m spinning, and I’ll be glad when this “moving” part ends.
Moving at any age is hard, but it takes a toll on someone in their sixties. At times I feel like I am playing hide and seek. Like today. It’s time for lunch and I have no idea where I put the salt. I see I put the butter in the cupboard. Hopefully I won’t find the salt in the refrigerator.
August 8, 2015
The dutiful son and I leave Happy Valley and merge with traffic heading south on I-5. It’s early enough roads aren’t crowded, and no one is tired and enacting road rage. I’ve driven this road before, several times, and the good thing about I-5 is that it’s a straight shot to Salem, no twisty turns to slow the pace.
We take exit 228 toward Lebanon and Corvallis and begin the windy drive toward the coast. According to mapquest, the trip to Newport is 139 miles. By comparison, a trip from Jerome to Boise, Idaho, a 120-mile drive, would take less than two hours. But here the trip takes almost three as the single-lane road winds at a slow 50, 55-mile pace. Idaho recently raised the freeway speed limit to 80 miles an hour, which makes sense in southern Idaho where there isn’t anything to destroy but desert. Here you couldn’t drive 80 miles an hour if you wanted to, not when curves warn “slow down,” and there are almost as many curves as trees. But the drive is beautiful, and every time I make it I think of Lewis and Clark and how primeval everything must have been 200 years ago. Even now, if road crews didn’t trim back foliage, the blackberries, deer fern, and juniper mistletoe would devour the road, and I would be searching for a way through the forest.
I roll down my window and enjoy the pine-scented air. Back in Idaho temperatures are three digits, here it is cooler, and where I am going the average daily temperature is 64 degrees. That’s part of the reason for this move: no more harsh winters and no more blistering summers. But that’s a lie. The reason for this move is simple. I love the ocean. I want to live on the coast.
It seems like fall, and I’m surprised at how the colors are already changing to red and yellow. It’s the drought my son says when I comment. It’s hard to believe this lush land is experiencing a drought, not with all the green around me. But there are signs everywhere with dead trees and straw-colored grass. And I understand drought. In Idaho, everything is brown and much of the terrain is on fire.
I have a lot to learn about this state that supports the right to die, medicinal marijuana, and mandatory recycling. This green state meshes with my personality. I believe in leaving a light footprint, if I must leave one at all. And I love to play in the dirt. My Idaho friends have placed bets. How long will it be before I put my nose in a nursery? Surprisingly, my list is small: star jasmine, blue hydrangea, peace lilies, and a white magnolia, none of which survive harsh Idaho winters.
Even before I pull into Newport, I smell the salt air. I inhale. It’s comforting, and welcoming, and feels like home.